Kyrgyzstan Highlights with Birds of Prey Festival 20209 Days | Bishkek, Cholpon Ata, Karkara Valley, Tepke village, Karakol, Bokonbaevo, Kochkor, Son-Kul lake

Kyrgyzstan offers a unique opportunity to discover a nomadic culture, with traditions that have endured for hundreds, or even thousands, of years. A highlight of this 9-day tour is the chance to experience the Birds of Prey festival, where you’ll see how locals hunt with golden eagles and watch traditional music and dance performances. Continue your experience of the life of Kyrgyz nomads as you stay in a yurt next to a high-mountain lake, learn how to make a traditional felt carpet, and taste local cuisine. Other tour highlights include swimming in the vast Issyk-Kul lake; exploring stunning gorges and canyons; climbing the Burana Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and stepping back in time as you immerse yourself in Bishkek’s Soviet architecture.

 

Tour itinerary:

Day 1, 10 August, Mo: Bishkek – Kara Bulak Eco Resort – Bishkek
 
Arrive in Bishkek early in the morning. Upon arrival at the airport, meet your guide and transfer to the hotel for early check-in and breakfast. Enjoy free time to rest before driving to Kara Bulak Eco Resort (30 km) to take some easy hikes. Watch a demonstration of how traditional felt is made and learn about the different types of traditional carpets (shyrdaks and ala-kiyiz). You can even try making an ala-kiyiz yourself! Have lunch at the Eco Resort. Return to Bishkek for a sightseeing tour, which includes the Monument to Kyrgyzstan’s national hero, Manas, the ceremony for the changing of the Guards of Honour (if happening on the day), the Kurmanjan Datka Monument, and Victory Square. Transfer to the hotel. Free time, with own arrangements for dinner. Overnight at the hotel.
Driving distance: 60 km / 1 hour
Day 2, 11 August, Tu: Bishkek – Burana Tower – Cholpon-Ata
 
After breakfast, transfer to Cholpon-Ata on Issyk-Kul lake. At 182 km long and 58 km wide, Issyk-Kul is the second-largest Alpine lake in the world. On the way, visit Burana Tower, all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Have lunch, accompanied by a folklore show, at the home of a local family in Tokmok. Continue driving to Cholpon Ata and then enjoy some free time to explore this lakeside town. In summer, the water is warm enough to swim in (18-20oC). Dinner and overnight at a hotel.
Driving distance: 260 km / 5-6 hours
Day 3, 12 August, We: Issyk-Kul lake – Karkara Valley
 
After breakfast, visit the Museum of Nomadic Civilization in Ornok, the Ethnographic Museum in Cholpon Ata, and the Petroglyphs Museum near Cholpon Ata. The Petroglyphs Museum is a large, open-air collection of rock carvings that covers 42 hectares and contains, in addition to numerous petroglyphs (dating from the 2nd millennium BC, through the Middle Ages, up to the 6th century AD), several prehistoric monumental structures (stone circles, tombs, the remains of a stone boundary wall, and balbals). There are several routes, marked with arrows, around the site, and plaques giving short descriptions of the monuments. After lunch in a café in Cholpon Ata, drive to the Karkara Base Camp in the Karkara Valley, close to the border with Kazakhstan. The camp is situated in a picturesque gorge, the sides of which are covered with fir and juniper trees. Take some easy hikes in the gorge, followed by dinner and overnight at the camp.
Driving distance: 230 km / 4-5 hours
Day 4, 13 August, Th: Karkara Valley – Tepke – Karakol
 
Breakfast. Transfer to Tepke village to take a farm tour and then have lunch by the Jyrgalan River. Optional: 1 hour of horse-riding. Continue to Karakol, a small but interesting town with traditional Russian architecture. The town was established in the middle of the 19th century and became an important garrison settlement in the region. Just before reaching Karakol, visit the museum of the Russian explorer, Nikolai Przhevalsky. Then take a sightseeing tour of the town, including the Dungan Mosque, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the historical museum. Have dinner with a local Dungan/Uighur family. Overnight at a hotel.
Driving distance: 130 km / 3-4 hours
Day 5, 14 August, Fr: Karakol – Jeti-Oguz Gorge – Skazka Canyon – Bokonbaevo
 
After breakfast, drive to the picturesque Jeti-Oguz (“Seven Bulls”) Gorge for a short hike. Continue to Skazka (“Fairy Tale”) Canyon, which has many interesting geological features and unusual rock formations. Then drive to Bokonbaevo, a picturesque village on the southern shore of Issyk-Kul lake. On the way, enjoy a packed lunch by the lake. Located between the Terskey Ala-Too Mountains and the lakeshore, Bokonbaevo attracts visitors with its combination of natural beauty and traditional Kyrgyz character. Dinner and overnight at a yurt camp.
Driving distance: 170 km / 4 hours
Day 6, 15 August, Sa: Bokonbaevo (Birds of Prey Festival) – Kochkor
 
After breakfast at the yurt camp, depart for the site of the Birds of Prey Festival. Watch a folklore show and demonstrations of local people hunting with golden eagles, look around the handicrafts exhibition and souvenir stalls, and taste traditional Kyrgyz cuisine for lunch. After the festival, transfer to Kochkor. Dinner and overnight in a local family’s home.
Driving distance: 120 km / 2-3 hours
Day 7, 16 August, Su: Kochkor – Son-Kul lake
 
After breakfast, drive over Kalmak Achu Pass (3,447m) to a yurt camp on the shore of Son-Kul lake. As you approach the lake, you’ll see several shepherds with their herds of livestock. After arriving at the camp, have lunch, followed by free time to explore the area. Take the opportunity to appreciate the lives of real nomads and get acquainted with the culture of Kyrgyz people. Yurts are the traditional dwelling of Central Asia’s nomadic people, consisting of a wooden frame covered with several layers of felt. They can be constructed quickly, making them practical for nomads who move around. Their interiors are often decorated with felt carpets and traditional embroidery. Dinner and overnight at the yurt camp.
Driving distance: 150 km / 3 hours
Day 8, 17 August, Mo: Son-Kul lake – Bishkek
 
Breakfast, then drive to Bishkek via 33 Parrots Pass or Kalmak Ashu Pass (depending on weather conditions). Have lunch in a local café at the Boom Gorge. After arriving in Bishkek, visit the local department store, TsUM, to buy some souvenirs. Have dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight at a hotel.
Driving distance: 350 km / 6-7 hours
Day 9, 18 August, Tu: Bishkek - departure
 
Breakfast, followed by hotel check-out (by 12:00). Free time until the transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Departure. End of the tour.
Driving distance: 30 km / 40 minutes

Please note:

  • The single supplement does not cover individual accommodation in yurts or homestays;
  • Supplement for TWIN accommodation in yurt: US$15 per person per night (subject to availability);
  • Supplement for SINGLE accommodation in yurt: US$25 per person per night (subject to availability);
  • Twin/single accommodation is sometimes possible in homestays but is not guaranteed;
  • Yurts at Song Kul lake and Bokonbaevo, homestay in Kochkor, and tent camp in Karkara – shared shower and toilet.

Level of difficulty:
Participants require an average level of physical fitness for the hikes and (optional) horse riding. There are some long transfers (up to 4 hours) along mountain roads.

Responsibilities of clients:
Clients should recognise and accept the risk that circumstances may arise that may cause some activities to be shortened, or eliminated altogether, without reimbursement or refund. Such circumstances include weather, earthquakes and other natural events, and injuries or other medical problems. Each tourist should organise his or her own medical insurance in his/her home country.

We recommend you bring:

  • Raincoat;
  • Sweater/fleece;
  • Wind-breaker jacket;
  • Enough t-shirts, underwear, and other clothes (consider bringing tops with long sleeves to avoid sunburn);
  • Sun hat (the sun can be strong in this region, even in the mountains);
  • Sun cream (SPF30 or higher);
  • Sunglasses;
  • Wool/winter hat;
  • Small towel;
  • Good hiking boots suitable for easy walks in the mountains;
  • Hiking sticks (if needed);
  • Suitable shoes for the city walks;
  • Personal first aid kit (the problems you are most likely to encounter are blisters, sunburn, allergies, diarrhoea, and sore muscles after hikes – we suggest bringing painkillers, anti-histamines, general antibiotics, and anything you need for your usual medical conditions);
  • Insect repellent (for skin and clothes);
  • Personal hygiene kit (hand-sanitiser is highly recommended) and toilet paper;
  • Camera;
  • Notepad and pen to make notes as you travel;
  • Small backpack (day pack);
  • Torch (flashlight);
  • Bank cards and foreign currency - ATMs accepting international cards are available in Bishkek, but Visa is preferable to Mastercard or Maestro. If you plan to exchange US$ to KGS we recommend bringing US$50 or US$100 notes without marks or other any damage (banks and foreign exchange offices do not accept damaged notes).

Weather:
Please note that in summer the temperature in Bishkek can reach 40°C, while in the mountains the daytime temperature may be as low as 10°C. Be prepared for unexpected changes in weather (rain, snow ,wind, or hail). The lowest temperature during the tour will be at Song Kul lake, where nighttime temperatures may be as low as -2 to -4°C.

  • Accommodation based on double/twin room sharing in hotels and tents and 3-4 people sharing in yurts or homestays;
  • Local, English-speaking guide;
  • Meals as per itinerary (9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 7 dinners);
  • Entrance fees per itinerary (museums, national parks, and festival);
  • Transport (type of vehicle depends on the group size);
  • Bottled drinking water (1 litre per person per day);
  • Shyrdak demonstration at Kara Bulak Eco Resort;
  • Folklore show during lunch in Tokmok;
  • Farm tour and lunch in Tepke;
  • Border permit for Karkara Valley.
  • Single accommodation (unless you pay the single supplement to have your own hotel room and tent);
  • Personal expenses;
  • International or domestic flight tickets before or after the tour;
  • Camera and video fees (if required);
  • Any deviation from the itinerary;
  • Tips for driver and guide (although they would be appreciated);
  • Alcohol and soft drinks;
  • Visa support or visa consular fees (if required);
  • Optional activities like horse-riding;
  • Personal travel insurance.

 

Accommodation:

Bishkek - 3 nights
B Hotel, My Hotel, or similar
Cholpon-Ata - 1 night
Raduga, Carven IK, or similar
Karkara - 1 night
Base camp
Karakol - 1 night
Green Yard guesthouse, Tagaitai, Amir, or similar
Bokonbaevo - 1 night
Yurt camp (3-4 people sharing one yurt)
Kochkor - 1 night
Family run accommodation (B&B)
Son-Kul - 1 night
Yurt camp (3-4 people sharing one yurt)

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